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Don't Make Me Think - Book Review

1 November 2012
Dr. Moria Levy
book cover

The book "Don't Make Me Think," authored by Steve Krug in 2006 (second edition), remains correct, accurate, and relevant despite the passage of time. Focused on the utility of websites and other systems, Krug applied the same principles to its writing, ensuring that the book is informative, easy to read, and quickly understandable.

The book delves into the following topics:
  • Basic Principles - The World of Usability

  • Screens & Windows

  • Text

  • Home

  • Where do you start?

While there's a chapter on usability tests in the book, it has been omitted from this summary since Krug has dedicated an entire book, "Rocket Surgery Made Easy," to the subject. The summary encapsulates the recommendations. Reading the whole book to explore their reasons, understand why they are effective, and delve into examples is recommended.

Happy reading!

Basic Principles - The World of Usability

If there's one key takeaway from the book, it is encapsulated in this phrase: "Minimum cognitive effort for the user." The emphasis isn't solely on the number of clicks but on the mental effort required for users to obtain the desired information. Opting for three clicks over one is preferable if the single click involves significant cognitive processing. It's vital to understand that people are likely to utilize something less when something is challenging to use.

Additional principles outlined in the book include:

  1. Consistency: Maintain a consistent presentation, actions, and content throughout the site.

  2. Accessibility: Ensure accessibility for individuals with special needs.

  3. Keyboard Access: Allow access to all content on the site using the keyboard, extending beyond mouse-based options.

  4. CSS Development: Develop using Cascading Style Sheets (CSS).

Collectively, these principles contribute to a user-friendly experience, reducing cognitive load and promoting ease of use.

Screens & Windows

For Information:

  • Scanning the Page: Users typically scan pages initially rather than reading them thoroughly. Scanning involves the brain quickly searching for something exciting or resembling the sought-after information. Users tend to press the "back" button and start anew if not found. It's important to anticipate that users will search for words and phrases that align with their tasks or interests.

  • Choosing an Action: Users tend to choose an action, not necessarily the best, but often the first reasonable choice.

  • Trial and Error: Users usually do not invest time in understanding how things work; they prefer trying and sticking to what works for them. For instance, users might type entire URLs into Google regularly because, in their minds, it blends with the whole web.

  • Internet Nature: Due to the internet's nature, users on a particular page lack a sense of direction, size, and location within the entire site


  • Page Naming: Name each page and place it prominently at the top. Ensure that the page's name reflects the action that led to it.

  • Markup or Breadcrumbs: Include a markup or breadcrumbs to remind users of their location and aid navigation. Place breadcrumbs at the top of the page.

  • Page Hierarchy: Plan a clear hierarchy for the page:

    - Make crucial information more prominent.

    - Group logically related information together visually.

    - Nest information within frames and subframes as needed.

    - Divide the page into visually and logically separated areas to help users focus.

  • Clickable Elements: Ensure that anything clickable is visible to ordinary users without testing. Buttons should look like buttons, and links should look like links.

  • Use of Symbols: Maintain consistency in using the same symbol for buttons and actions. Avoid unnecessary diversification.

  • Tabs: Utilize tabs for their utility, visual clarity, and the sense of physical space they provide. Highly recommended.

  • Conventions: Adhere closely to internationally recognized conventions for various symbols rather than attempting to be overly original.

  • Background Noise: Avoid any background that creates visual noise, ensuring a clean and focused user experience.



  • Simplicity: Eliminate unnecessary words that don't contribute value. This reduces noise, highlights essential text, and lets users view more page content without scrolling. This is particularly relevant for minimizing "happy talk" (introductions, welcome messages, etc.) and in implementation guidelines (not articles). Consider giving up or at least reducing such content.

  • Consistency: Maintain consistency in the formulations used throughout the content.

  • Buttons/Links/Instructions: Opt for a text that straightforwardly explains itself whenever a user decision is required. Avoid attempting to be overly marketing-oriented or sophisticated with high language. Choose simplicity; prefer "Search" over "Quick Search," as users expect a regular search to be quick.

  • Images: Include descriptive text for each image. This not only assists users but also aids search engines in understanding the content.



Logo and Tagline:

  1. Ensure the logo is consistently displayed on all pages, preferably in the upper right corner.

  2. Craft a tagline with significant marketing value. Invest in clarity, explanation, potential personalization, and sophistication. Demonstrate differentiation for site owners and benefits for users. Allocate space wisely, avoid excessive use, and steer clear of vision-based taglines.

  3. Always provide a one-click option for users to return to the homepage.

Home Page:

  1. Make the homepage represent the site's purpose, functionalities, and reasons for users to choose it over other sites.

  2. Manage the home center wisely, recognizing its value to all stakeholders.

  3. Design the Home Center to be universally valuable to all types of users.

  4. Exercise caution with pulldowns on the homepage due to limitations in visibility, graphical editing challenges, and readability issues.

  5. Ensure the absence of outdated information on the homepage.

  6. Be mindful of avoiding excessive advertising and marketing.


  1. Simplify the search pane by eliminating the need for users to choose the type of search.

  2. Limit search delineation to the search results page after the initial search rather than before.


  1. Acknowledge that most users begin navigation before initiating a search.

  2. Recognize the importance of navigation for orientation, understanding the site's image, and facilitating arrival.

  3. Most users commence navigation through the menu hierarchy on the home page.

  4. Design the navigation bar in clusters, identifying the home page, content areas, and specific sections. Include options for returning to the home page and initiating a search.

  5. Keep the navigation bar consistently visible in a fixed location on each page, with potential exceptions limited to forms and the home page.

Where do you start?

Some summary tips to kickstart the testing and enhancement of a site:

  • User-Centric Accessibility: Prioritize making the main website features easily accessible and intuitive. Address key user questions by anticipating and providing answers.

  • Transparent Information: Avoid hiding essential information that users commonly seek, such as prices, service times, and contact details.

  • Efficiency: Streamline user journeys by minimizing steps wherever possible.

  • Print-Friendly Design: Ensure that all page content is easily printable and user-friendly, even if some information is initially hidden.

  • Error Recovery: Facilitate easy recovery from navigation or operational errors to enhance the overall user experience.

  • User Consideration: When user interactions become potentially bothersome, such as requesting additional passwords, apologize for any inconvenience.

Always ensure that each page can answer the following questions effortlessly:

  1. Site Identification: What is the site?

  2. Page Identification: What page are you on?

  3. Navigation Menu: What are the main issues? (Navigation menu for content regions).

  4. Local Navigation: What are the options for action? (Local navigation to the page/panel).

  5. Location Awareness: Where am I located on the site? (Place marking/breadcrumbs).

  6. Search Functionality: How do I search? (Search pane).

And always remember that there's a subjective element of taste and a diversity of users. As a developer, you are not the representative user of appearance preferences or usage habits. Avoid planning websites solely based on personal preferences.

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